After receiving a Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta, I began my career as an English language educator in the 1990s. I taught, led programs, and designed curricula in Japan, Korea, and Canada. After years of teaching English in K-12 and varying adult learner contexts, I returned to university to earn an M.Ed and PhD in Language, Culture, and Teaching from the Faculty of Education at York University, Toronto. Currently, I have research partnerships and affiliations at University of Guelph (IICSI) and University of Regina (HRI) and teach sessionally for varying universities.
Since 2017, I have been conducting national and international fieldwork and embark on qualitative and sonic ethnographic research methodologies. I am interested in research that is co-created with participants and collaboratively disseminated or performed. I also draw on autoethnographic and duoethnographic methodologies in order to write about self with/in culture and engage in inquiry with others about the cultures we are immersed in.
Working Toward ‘Literacies of the Heart’ & Designing Interconnective Futures
Since researching the intersections of multiliteracies, contemplative education, and sound studies in education, I have been curious about what multiliteracies studies could entail. Which literacies are included under the umbrella of multiliteracies and which are considered fringe or ‘alternative’ and why? I have been re-conceptualizing, revising, re-thinking what I term a post-spatial model of literacies or Literacies of the Heart (LH). LH is an umbrella term which subsumes a range of emerging and vital literacies such as sensory literacies, social-emotional literacy, mindfulness as literacy, and Earth literacy, to name a few. The implications for LH are twofold: 1) LH expands on the classic paradigms of literacies as well as contributes to recent scholarship of what it entails to be multiliterate, and 2) amplifies discourse around the necessity for literacies that enhance more meaningful connectivity with each other and the Earth. This model of literacies is supported by findings from 3 ethnographic studies conducted with contemplative educators in varying pedagogical contexts over 5 years in 5 countries – Canada, Chile, India, the UK, and the US. The findings and participants’ vignettes from my studies illustrate how LH includes a heart-full awareness and creative multi-modes for attending to the well-being of individuals, communities, and the Earth. A turn toward exploring more of LH may assist in dismantling oppressive structures of power and create beloved communities within educational contexts. LH is thus a model for teachers, students, and community members to design futures together that are respectful, sustainable, and interconnective.
Multiliteracies / Sound Studies in Education / Critical Studies in Improvisation / Contemplative Education / Curriculum Studies / Ethnography / Sonic & Performative Ethnography / Autoethnography
* Denotes courses designed
- Mount Royal University, Calgary, Department of General Education, Communications (2022-23)
- GNED 1404 Writing about Images
- University of Alberta, Edmonton, Faculty of Education (2022)
- *EDSE 501/401 Contemplative Education (graduate/undergraduate)
- University of Regina, Department of Interdisciplinary Programs, Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance (2020-22)
- *MAP200AH – Meditation and Art
- *MAP200AK – Meditation, Social Justice , Art
- York University, Toronto, Language, Culture, and Teaching, Faculty of Education (2016-18)
- EDUC 3600 Literacy and Culture (Course Director)
- EDUC 3820 Teaching English Language in Mainstream Classrooms (Assistant to Dr. Sandra Schecter)
- EDFE 2100 Inquiries into Learning; HUMA 2690A Introduction to Children’s Studies; EDFE 1100 Childhood Health and Development (Tutorial Lead)
- SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2021-24) –Toward a Sound Pedagogy: A Sonic and Performative Ethnography of ‘Sound Healers’ in Canada. This is an audio/visual documentation and examination into sonic communities across Canadian provinces.
- SSHRC Post-doctoral Fellowship (2019-21) at the University of Regina in the Department of Interdisciplinary Programs, Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance (MAP) – Improvised Soundscapes Toward Beloved Community and a Curriculum of Sound: A Sonic Ethnography of Gong Master-Teachers. The study explores the ethnographic question, “what is going on” in gong teachers’ spaces in India, the UK, and the US. The research explores and queries how improvisation and gong teachings may afford social and environmental transformations as well as inform curriculum. I curated an online museum/gallery of audio tours with the themes from research with 2 gong master teachers.
Click to Explore Sonic Museum Tours with 10 Audio Tours of Research Themes
- SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship in Language, Culture, and Teaching, Faculty of Education, York University, Toronto (2019) – Interconnections Between Self and Others: Building an Ethical Foundation for a Mindful Model of Spatial Literacy. This project was a multinational ethnographic study of teachers of contemplative arts practices in Chile, Canada, and India. I began to conceptualize ‘post-spatial literacies’ or ‘literacies of the heart.’
- Chapter in Sonic Studies in Educational Foundations: Echoes, Reverberations, Silences, Noise (2020) and article in Educational Studies (2018) presenting data from an ethnographic study at an urban ashram in Canada. The study illuminates the role of silence and sound (Gurmukhi mantra) in every day living for participants in a community of linguistic practice.
Bliss, S. & Fowler, T.A. (2021). Self and others in beloved community: Toward living with dissonant harmony. In T.A. Fowler & W.S. Allen (Eds.), Duoethnographic encounters: Opening spaces for difficult dialogues in times of uncertainty. DOI Press Inc.
Bliss, S. (2020). Tuning out of this world: Silence and mantra at an urban ashram in Zygmunt Bauman’s liquid modernity. In W. Gershon and P. Appelbaum (Eds.), Sonic studies in educational foundations: Echoes, reverberations, silences, noise. Routledge.
Bliss, S. (2021). The (un)mindful autoethnographer: Caring for an elder-parent during crisis. Journal of Autoethnography (2)3, 434-445.
Bliss, S.A. (2018). Tuning out of this world: Silence and mantra at an urban ashram in Zygmunt Bauman’s liquid modernity. Educational Studies – Special Issue ‘Echoes, Reverberations, Silences, and Noise: Sonic Possibilities in Education’ (54)4, 448-464.
Bliss, S.A. (2017). Exploring shunyata (emptiness) and the cultivation of mindful practices: Educators finding their zero-point balance. Childhood Education (93)2, 114-118.
Bliss, S.A. and Husband, M. (2017). Sexuality in school: The limits of education – Book Review. McGill Journal of Education (52)3, 805-808.
Bliss, S.A. (2016) Possibilities in transformative learning: Facing radically passive teachers including artwork, the breath, and shunyata (emptiness). Transformative Learning Network Conference, Tacoma, WA.
Select Papers and Workshops at Conferences
- Sonic Teachings and Deep Listening. Teaching and Learning: Here and Now Conference –Innovations and Radical Re-imaginings in Education. University of Regina, online.
- Sound Practice & Philosophy: A Performative & Sonic Autoethnographic Reflection. International Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative (ISAN), St. Petersburg, Florida, online.
- Difficult Dialogues in Uncertain Times: Creating Duoethnographic Spaces and Taking Responsibility as Scholar-Educators. Symposium at American Educational Research Association (AERA) / SIG – Critical Examination of Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender in Education, online. Co-presented with Allen, W., Borduas, C., Fowler, T., Juarez Mendoza, A.N., & Thompson, C.M., online.
- Toward Resonant Literacy and a Sonic Curriculum. Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) / Language and Literacy Researchers of Canada (LLRC), online.
- Mindfully Walking Toward Interconnectedness. International Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative (ISAN), St. Petersburg, Florida, online.
- The (Un)Mindful Autoethnographer: Taking Care of a Parent. International Association of Autoethnography and Narrative Inquiry: Doing Autoethnography Conference, St. Petersburg, Florida.
- Heightened Awareness Through Improvisational Soundscapes. UBC Colloquium 2019: Agile Futures – Approaching Improvisation, Western Front, Vancouver.
- Recasting Mindfulness-based Practices as a Spatial Model of Socially Situated Literacy: An Ethnography of Meditation and Yoga Teachers in Chile, Canada, and India. Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) / Language and Literacy Researchers of Canada (LLRC), UBC, Vancouver.
- Internal Environment as First Learning and Teaching Environment. AERA (American Educational Research Association). Presentation alongside York University colleagues in a panel entitled: Deconstructing Knowledge in Post Truth Learning Environments, Toronto.
- Querying Sound and Silence as ‘Resonant Literacy’. Rosa Bruno-Jofre Symposium in Education: Beyond Themes, Queen’s University, Kingston.
- Embodied Learning with Sound and Silence: The Body as a Resonant Gong (The Body as an Instrument). Provoking Curriculum Conference, University of Regina, Regina.
- Engaging Our Internal Hum and Using Our Voices as Instruments of Change. Teaching in Focus Conference, York University, Toronto.
- First Interiority, Then Exteriority: Recasting Mindfulness-based Practices as a Contemplative Model of Socially Situated Literacy. AERA (American Educational Research Association), New York City.
- ‘Tricked’ and ‘Trumped’ by the Lack of Difficult Phenomena in Picturebooks: Querying Disasters and Death. Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, Dayton, Ohio.
- Tuning Out of This World: Silence and Mantra in Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity. Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, Dayton, Ohio.
- The (Un)Mindful Welcome of Unexpected Others and Difficult Phenomena in Picturebooks. IRSCL Congress (International Research Society for Children’s Literature), York University, Toronto.
- Learning Through a Levinasian Facing of Artwork and Shunyata (Emptiness). CSSE Congress (Canadian Society for the Study of Education), Ryerson University, Toronto.
- Embodied Curriculum of Sound: Using Our Breath, Voices, and Silence to Create Peaceful Internal and External Environments. Eight Biennial Provoking Curriculum Conference, McGill University, Montreal.
- Possibilities in Transformative Learning: Facing Radically Passive Teachers Including Artwork, the Breath, and Shunyata (Emptiness). Transformative Learning Network Conference, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington.
- Enhancing Well-Being in Just 3 Minutes: Implementing Mindful Practices. York Centre for Education and Community Summer Institute, York University, Toronto.
- Just 3 Minutes: Implementing Meditation in the Classroom. Teaching in Focus Conference, York University, Toronto.
- Living in the Ampersand: A Response to the NFB Documentary ‘Living in the Hyphen’. York Graduate Students in Education Conference, York University, Toronto.
- Digital Capital and Identity in ESL Students. York Graduate Students in Education Conference, York University, Toronto.
Selected Research Funding & Fellowships
- SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2021-24
- SSHRC Post-doctoral Fellowship, 2019-21
- SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, 2017-19
- Kenneth & Sylvia Marantz Fellowship for Picturebook Research, Kent State University, Ohio, 2017
- Knowledge Mobilization Unit, Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University, Toronto, 2017